Monday, August 20, 2018

No Sitting Together at the Ballpark, Not for You Wheelchair Boy: The Great Companion Controversy of Anaheim and the ADA Resolution That Followed

The curse started for me over half a century ago when my dad took me to my first Angels game at the brand new Anaheim Stadium in 1965. That game impressed upon me so much that they became my team and I was an Angel fan for life.

Sure, they were the second tier team in town. Walter O'Malley had brought his Dodgers to Los Angeles a few years earlier from Brooklyn. They owned L.A., and still do to this day. Although I enjoyed seeing Dodger games in L.A., they always seemed a bit uptight to me and didn't quite click

It was the Angels with their underdog status and the team's laid back approach to pleasing their fans at the stadium that somehow wooed me. It sure wasn't their winning ways...the team was a perennial loser, no matter how much money the team's owner, singing cowboy Gene Autry, would throw at a superstar in the twilight of his career to come play here...but it was still a great place to go see some baseball and have a good time.

"Win one for the cowboy" would just be an empty phrase as long as he was alive. Sure, they came within striking distance, making the playoffs in 1979, 1982, and within one strike of going to the World Series in 1986 until closer Donnie Moore threw a beach ball to Dave Henderson who knocked it out of the park. 

After the Cowboy died and the Disney Corporation took over the team, they finally put it together to win their lone world championship in 2002.

My wife and son caught the dreaded Angel fan bug from me. We used to go to about a dozen Angel games a year. We had no problems with wheelchair and companion seating until Arizona billboard magnate Arte Moreno bought the team in 2003. After that, since they’d recently won a World Series and (in their words) tickets were at a premium, they enforced the companion seating policy as was written in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) at the least one companion seat for each ticket sold upon request. They would not sell a third and I could not even get an extra ticket anywhere close.

I complained to the team and we had several long discussions with them about it and they wouldn’t budge but they were within the letter of the law so what could I do?

When the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) was asking for suggestions on how the ADA could be modified and refined in 2008, I sent them a letter about could it be OK for an able bodied person to buy as many tickets as they want together but accessible seating was, in effect, limited to two tickets? Thus, my suggestion was heard and a new modification to the ADA went into effect...teams and other public performance venues now had to sell at least 3 companion tickets to each wheelchair ticket when requested. 

Once this was coded into the ADA and the date had passed so that it was in effect, I tried to buy a wheelchair ticket and two companion tickets to a game. I was told only one companion seat would be sold, just like before. It’d been years of wrangling with them. I was through, I turned it over to the DOJ.

You could imagine my surprise when they assigned it to an attorney that worked down the hall from me at my office where I worked at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles. It caused a little consternation at first because I was a DOJ employee but I reminded them that I didn’t give up my rights when I came into work. 

They agreed and did a ‘soft’ litigation...basically informing the Angels of the law. The Angels said a mistake was made when I tried to buy tickets and that they were in full compliance. The attorney asked if I could go to a game and report back to him what happened.

(At this same time, the Angels had just settled a full blown lawsuit that a fan filed for the same reason because they only built in one companion space for the only two wheelchair seats that they had in the club level, a popular premium level for fans)

I went to buy tickets as was told that in the section we wanted to sit in (left field, cheap seats), that we were required to buy their “all you can eat” package. I argued but that’s all they would sell me. We went. There was a snack bar ten feet behind our seats. I went. Was told the “all you can eat” snack bar was in another location on the top deck of the stadium...three levels above us.

Back at work, I informed the attorney. He unleashed some hell on the team and also found out that in the section we were in, only the wheelchair row was required to buy the food package.

That was the last time we went to a game there, four years ago. The DOJ got the Angels to stop the food package practice and all compliance had been adhered they told me.

Today will be our first time back. We’ll see how it goes. We'll let you know in this week's Fields of Dreams post on Wednesday.

On a side note, the team fired their VP in charge of ticket policy and sales. They also fired their attorney who, as was unofficially told to me by very informed sources, cost the team over $4 million in fighting these various actions. I’m told he now is the team attorney for the Jacksonville Jaguars football team.

Always try to work it out ahead of time but if it comes down to it, here's a link that tells you how to file an ADA complaint.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved

Sunday, August 19, 2018

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: Hot Pink Lemonade

Just a quick note, some of our Cocktail Hour fans have asked about the shaker we use. It's a glass shaker, with steel cap, and a silicone gasket that keeps the lid from getting stuck.

Now, back to this week's drink...

Here's another drink I came up with while playing with the chemistry set known as my bar...

Watch the Video!

Cranberry and lime are two of the most versatile mixers you can have in your bar.  Just a bit below lime, I'd throw in lemon.  This week's cocktail goes with the lemon to provide a delicious, refreshing, powerful, low calorie drink.  Our Hot Pink Lemonade tastes like a hard lemonade...harder than Mike's...and only packs around 130 calories.

1 oz. - tequila
1/2 oz. - amaretto
3 oz. - cranberry cocktail
3 oz. - diet sparkling lemonade

Fill a highball or pint glass half full of ice.  Pour in all ingredients and stir.



Friday, August 17, 2018

The Sights and Sips of Motherlode Country: Motor Touring and Wine Tasting in the Sierra Foothills

We've got a lazy day to kill before we drive back home. Waking up in our room in the Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort in the mountains just east of the town of the same name, we make our way over the the Casino diner, Margaret's Cafe.

Watch the Video!

The restaurant is named after the member of the Mi Wok tribe here who was the driving force into developing this resort. The walls are lined with pictures of her.

After trying the buffet, we found that the best food is served here...not the buffet. And, yes, that is bacon covered pork chops just above.

Hunger sated, we head out on the road. Just a bit east up the road, we find this castle-like house that has it's own amusement park out front. No, Michael Jackson did not rise from the dead but an eccentric local millionaire, John Hertzig, built this for his own amusement.

Over the hill to the north is Shenandoah Valley, just full of great wineries with vines dating back to the Gold Rush. We've been here many, many times and today want to try a couple of new wineries.

First up is Dobra Zimlja on the far eastern end of Steiner Road. Using local grapes they make big, heavy wines in the Croatian style of its immigrant owner Milan Matulich.

The tasting room sits inside of a wine cave dug into the hill. The friendly server pours us a rose that looks black in the bottle, "it lightens up in the glass when I pour it," she says when I ask why they call it a rose.

It does lighten up a bit to a dark purple but it is a lighter tasting rose.

Tasting is $5 but we buy a few bottles so the fee is waved. We spend a few moments at their pond (pictured at the top of this post) before moving on.

Next door is the Charles Spinetta Winery.  In a more utilitarian cinder block setting, Spinetta pours deep reds and sweet wines surrounded by artworks of nature.

The sparkling rose and chenin blanc is on sale so we buy a case of that.

Last, we stop at Story Wine where we always try to have a picnic when we're up here.

The prices here have made a steep climb so we just buy a cold bottle of rose to wash down the sandwiches we picked up at the casino before we left.

It's been a whirlwind week and a half between here and Placerville, so we just spend our last evening chilling in the hotel room, snacking with one of the bottles we bought and just relaxing. 

Tomorrow is a long drive home.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

PUBLIC TRANSIT OPTIONS FOR THE DISABLED: Riding On The Los Angeles County Metro Rail System - Using it in Real Life

Last time, I gave you an overview of how Los Angeles has built a new rail transit system from the ground up in the last quarter century.

Over the last couple of years we have been doing more than our fair share of riding on the Gold Line. Before he retired from work earlier this year as an IT Specialist, my dad would ride it to and from his office in downtown Los Angeles. Besides that, we have ridden on the Gold Line on many occasions to some of the other cities that it goes through such as Pasadena, Arcadia and Azusa. Of those stations, our favorite one to go to would probably be the one in downtown Azusa.

In each of those cities there are stations along the line that are located in some very nice downtown or industrial areas. In Pasadena there are the Memorial Park and Fillmore stations that we like to go to quite often. The Memorial Park station is located in the Old Town neighborhood of Pasadena and the Fillmore station is located close to the Huntington Memorial hospital. At the Fillmore station there is also a really good pizza place that we like to eat at called Pitfire Pizza.

The Arcadia station is located in a mostly industrial area in the city of Arcadia. Other than a few businesses that are within walking distance from the station, there is not much to see when you are there. The two biggest attractions or places of interest that are near there are the Mt. Lowe brewery and a 24 Hour Fitness gym.

Between those two places, the one that my family and I go to the most often is the Mt. Lowe brewery. In addition to having a very good selection of beer to taste, the Mt. Lowe brewery also plays host to a wide variety of food trucks that stop by there and serve many different food items throughout a given week.

The best station on the new Foothill Extension section of the Gold Line however is probably the one that is in downtown Azusa. This particular station is very close to many of the restaurants and shops in downtown Azusa such as Max's Mexican restaurant, Congregation Ale House and a Target store that greets the riders when they first get off of the train.

For us, when we have taken the train to the downtown Azusa station, one of our favorite things to do is to go over to Max's and have a meal and a round or two of some very good Cadillac margaritas.

There have also been times in which my family and I along with some of our other family members and friends have taken the Gold Line all the way to the East Los Angeles area for the start of an all day pub crawl. When we have done these pub crawls in the past, after we start the day somewhere in East L.A. for breakfast, we will then usually make our way at a very leisurely pace all the way to the other end of the line in downtown Azusa at either Max's or Congregation Ale House for dinner.

Moving on from that brief discussion of some of the fun things that you can do when riding the Gold Line, the next thing that I would like to talk about are some of the basic fundamental things that you may need to know when riding the Gold Line or any of the other light rail or subway lines on the Los Angeles Metro Rail system.

The first thing to know is that when you arrive at a station to board a train is that there are ticket fare scanners which are located at the station entrances where you have to scan your ticket or fare card before going on the train. One of the most common forms of ride fair on the entire public transportation system in the Los Angeles is known as the Transit Access Pass or TAP card for short.

If you are someone who is disabled and or uses a wheelchair like me to get around, then you can use your ID card that you get from Access Services paratransit for your ride fare if you have one and are an eligible member of Access Services paratransit. If you do have an Access Services ID card then you and one Personal Care Attendant or PCA can ride for free anywhere on the public transportation system in Los Angeles.

Once you get to the scanners at the entrances to the stations, you will then have to place your TAP card or any other acceptable form of ride fare in front the scanner screen until it makes a beeping sound and displays the word "GO" in big bold letters before proceeding to the station boarding platforms.

When you get to the boarding platforms, the waiting time for the train can range from 6 to 12 minutes during the rush hour periods in the morning and early evening to as much as 20 minutes when routine track maintenance is being performed on certain portions of the railroad tracks.

For disabled people and or wheelchair users, depending on which direction you are going, after the train arrives at the station, the train car doors will then usually open up by themselves and you can go inside the train. Once you are inside there are usually a couple of designated areas of space for people with disabilities or who are in wheelchairs that are marked by a blue colored sign on the walls of the train with either a stick figure person who is sitting in a wheelchair or is using a walking cane. The seats in each of these disabled person seating areas are able to be folded up or down in order to make access a lot easier for people who are disabled. Sometimes there will be passengers who are already on the train who may already be using those seats in the area where you need to sit at that you will have to ask them very politely to move to another seat in the train so that you can sit there and they usually are very nice about moving and giving up their seat.

If you use a wheelchair when you are on the train, the proper way to park your chair once you are in the designated seating areas is to put in the vacated area of space that should be available after you fold up the seats next to the windows of the train car facing forward. Sometimes there have even been instances when I've been on a Gold Line train in which even though I have parked my wheelchair in the forward facing position to begin with, it will feel like I am riding on the train in a backwards direction depending on which way the train is going toward either downtown Los Angeles and East L.A. or Azusa. The first few times that this happened it did take some time to get used to riding it like that but the more frequently it occurred it was not too bad.

Another thing that I had to learn about and get used to after a while whenever I have been riding the train was to successfully be able to drive my wheelchair in to and out of the space where I parked while the train either starts to move or is still moving and getting close to the station where I am planning on getting off the train is. During this portion of the train riding experience, it is usually a little easier for me to park my chair in the designated seating area when I am getting on the train than when I am getting off. That's because when I am getting off the train, I almost always have to start driving my chair very carefully towards the nearest exit with the automatic sliding doors before they open and close and the train leaves for the next station. If for some reason I am not quick enough when preparing to drive my wheelchair off of the train, then I run the risk of possibly missing the station stop that I want to get off at. Luckily my wheelchair driving skills up to this point have been good enough that I have not had too many problems or close calls when departing the train so far. I have also been fortunate to have either one of my parents to help me by giving me instructions and giving me regarding the proper way to park whenever we have ridden the train as well as helping me to navigate through any obstacles that I may have while boarding and leaving the train.

One last thing that I want to point out about the disabled access seating areas on the Gold Line trains is that on the newer model of train cars that the line currently uses is that the signs for these seating areas are a little bit more specific in comparison to the older model of trains with regards to the instructions of how those areas are to be used. From what I have seen in the newer train cars, people who use a wheelchair like me are supposed to sit in the seating area with the blue sign that says it is reserved for people who used "mobility devices" such as a wheelchair. All other people who have a disability or can walk with a cane are supposed to sit in the seating area with a sign that says that this seating area is reserved for "seniors and other persons with a disability."

(Update: based on the last few times that my family and I have ridden on the Gold Line, I can now confirm that both of the older and newer model train cars actually have the same exact signs for the disabled access seating areas.)

It is also worth mentioning that based on the numerous riding experiences that I have had so far on the Gold Line that the aisle ways which are inside the newer model of cars are a little bit wider and more spacious than those in the older model of cars. This added room of extra space makes it a little bit easier to maneuver a wheelchair like mine into one of the designated disabled persons' access seating areas.

So there you have it. That's just about everything that you need to know about the ins and outs of riding on the Los Angeles County Metro Rail system from a very knowledgeable and well traveled rider of the metro rail system here in the Los Angeles area. This is particularly the case with the Gold Line where I don't even need to look at the route map of station stops to know where it goes because my family and I have been on it so many times from one end to the other throughout the years.

Tim Musick
Copyright 2018
All Rights Reserved

Monday, August 13, 2018

Celebrating Independence Day With the Original Americans: Fourth of July at a Motherlode Indian Casino

It's the Fourth of July. We're waking up in our room at the Jackson Rancheria Resort (see our previous report, here) and Casino, a property of the Jackson Rancheria Band of the Mi Wuk Indians up here in the Sierra Foothills.

Other than not being used to a queen size bed (Letty and I have the biggest, widest king size bed we could find back home), it was a restful night. Breakfast is at Margaret's Cafe and Bakery, which we find really has the best food in the place.

Breakfast is pancakes, waffles, eggs, bacon, and some eggs benedict. It is outstanding and way better (and cheaper!) than the buffet.

Fortified, we head out to find out how they celebrate Independence Day in California's Gold Country.

One thing we find out quick is that if you want fireworks, you have to do it a day early on the 3rd.  This was explained to us years ago by the sisters that owned the Heirloom Inn in Ione back then.

Ione was the home of the company that put on professional pyrotechnic shows all over the surrounding area on the 4th. Therefore, they would not be available to do a local show on the holiday, so instead they did it the day before.

That tradition continues up here. Now, the show is held at Jackson's local junior high school and spectators cram every nook and cranny in the town for a view of the show.

We tried to go see it last night but could not find anywhere to park, not the least a handicapped spot, so we aborted and went back to the hotel for a quiet Independence eve.

For a colorful show of a different nature we head to Terra 'd Oro Vineyards in the nearby Shenandoah Valley. Today is the Cru Zin Car Show. We're luckier here as we snag the second to last parking spot available.

About a hundred or so classic cars are parked in the loading dock area of the winery. You've got your 57 Chevy's, Mustangs, a couple of VW's, Model T's, Nomads, and more. Even a few restored Corvairs. Ralph Nader must be feeling a disturbance in the force.

Inside, the winery is pouring free flowing tastes of their barberas, zinfandels, roses and more. A jazz band plays outside on the patio while a food truck caters the action. A one day 15% car show discount is applied to purchases of 4 bottles or more, which we take advantage of.

We sip a little outside then notice there are about 500 people here and exactly two bathrooms. Doing the math, we decide to move on.

At Sobon Winery, it's much lonelier so enough bathrooms won't be an issue. We get a mixed case with a 30% Independence Day discount.

Back in Plymouth, we stop to see our friends at Amador 360 winery collective to get another mixed case.

Storing our goodies in our hotel room, we freshen up and head up the road to Pine Grove.

We're going to spend the rest of our day at the town's community picnic called Groovin' in the Grove in their tiny city park.

A cover band called After Dark is playing. Wine and beer are free can either buy it there or bring your own...and hot dogs or pulled pork are the food options.

Across the street is the 88 Giant Burgers, a fly-filled greasy spoon joint that the locals tell me has really good burgers. 

I run over and get three to go and come back to the picnic.

The burgers are very good. The music's even better and we get to spend some time making new friends at the festival.

Sitting in the sun, up in the pines of the Sierras, a glass of wine, a big cheeseburger, family, and friends. This is a very relaxing and fun way to spend our fourth of July night.

We'll go visit some new wineries tomorrow and have another picnic. Tonight, we'll just enjoy the music until it's time to go to bed.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved

Sunday, August 12, 2018

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: Southern California's Best Margaritas and Margarita Madness!

Go to this link, Golden State Eating: Nine Tales of California Food Destinations,  to get your copy of our e-book. It follows us along as we go from Los Angeles to Napa Valley and back again, highlighting nine great food trips to take in this state.

To celebrate, here's our Margarita Madness Cocktail Hour which features the video that's embedded in Chapter 1 of our book. Enjoy...

The first chapter is our new Southern California's Top Three Margaritas and features this video that we've spent the last 6 months working on and putting together so we could launch it with our book.

Watch the Video!
Southern California's Top Three Margaritas

Check out the video and for the complete story...along with eight more delicious chapters and well over an hour of video...go over to Amazon and download the book. You'll have your own personal GPS to delicious eating up and down this Golden State.

Below, check out our Margarita Madness video where we try to determine our own personal favorite margarita recipe.

Thanks for you support - Darryl

We've been challenged, folks.

The first Cocktail Hour we ever did was my version of a margarita. A bartender in Baja California said it wasn't a be authentic, a margarita had to consist of only tequila, Cointreau (or Grand Marnier or triple sec), and lime juice.

Watch the Video!

Now I've had a margarita at the bar legend says invented this drink and had it that way. It's OK, but not as tasty as I can make it.

But the gauntlet has been thrown and we must answer.

Tim joins me as we make a completely authentic margarita and we give it a taste. Then, we make one with my recipe and see which one tastes better.  Who will win? Watch the video embedded in this report to find out!

Classic Margarita
1.5 oz. tequila
1 oz. Cointreau (or triple sec)
juice of one lime

Salt the rim of a martini glass using the rind of the lime. Mix ingredients in a cocktail shaker half filled with ice and shake. Strain over the rocks in the martini glass.

Darryl's Margarita
1.5 oz. tequila
1 oz. Cointreau (or triple sec)
.5 oz. brandy
juice of one lime
1 oz. Sweet and Sour mix.

Salt the rim of a margarita glass using the rind of the lime. Mix ingredients in a cocktail shaker half filled with ice and shake. Strain over the rocks in the margarita glass.

Which do you prefer?


Friday, August 10, 2018

Vacation Reboot: Picking up the Pieces in the Motherlode

Other than health emergencies, it's tougher to think of a harder piece of luck on your road trip than having your mode of transportation have a major breakdown. That's what happened to us last weekend in Placerville, California when the rear axle on our van gave out. That meant we had to leave the van and Tim's very heavy everyday power wheelchair behind while we opted to get a rental car to go back home and wait for our van to be repaired.

(NOTE: we initially went to Placerville for a beer festival which you can check out at this Cocktail Hour and video)

It's a week later, the van's fixed (although the bookkeeper, who was supposed to call me to tell me how much the bill is has yet to call back), we're packed tightly into our rental Toyota Corolla, and we're headed north on Highway 99 as fast as our four little cylinders will take us.

Early afternoon, we're pulling into the parking lot of the Les Schwab Tire and Brake service shop in Placerville. We see our van parked outside so I pull in next to it so we can transfer our luggage into it.

The three of us file in and my first pleasant surprise is when I say I'm here to pick up the van and the lady there say's "That'll be $1412, please." Pleasant, because I was led to believe it would have been closer to $3,000. Trying to keep a poker face, I was almost like that lady in the IKEA commercial who was running out to the parking lot, yelling to her husband "Start the car!" before they found out they'd made a mistake.

No mistakes least they didn't catch any as I paid for my service...I collected the keys, we packed up the van, Tim had a happy reunion with his main wheelchair, and Letty drove it to Folsom behind me as we took the Toyota back to the Enterprise agency there.

Then, it was another 45 minute drive to our destination today of the Jackson Rancheria Resort and Casino in Jackson. The Rancheria is a small reservation for the local band of Mi Wok Indians who have turned their little piece of California into a large resort.

Now, it's one of the cheapest places you can get a decent room in the area.

Since they're not required to follow the laws of the state, there are no taxes so the $104 dollar rate we're quoted is the entire price we pay. Except, the front counter person tells us if we apply for the casino card, we'll get another $10 off of that rate. So it's $94 for three ($5 extra for the third person) taxes, no resort fees, no parking charges.

The room is spacious, about a third larger than the motel room we stayed in last weekend in Placerville. Two queen beds, a tub with transfer bench built in, refrigerator, safe, large flat screen TV, ironing board, iron, and hair drier. Immaculately cleaned, quiet, and a view over the pool to the hills beyond one side and the casino parking structure on the other.

It's a very nice room, the nicest we're going to get for this price up here.

A sense of completeness takes over...we're back where we left off, our van is working, Tim's back in his main wheelchair, and we're in our favorite part of the world in a nice room. Comfortable, relaxed, and ready we head to the casino to eat.

The buffet here is $15.95 on Mondays but we get another discount since we're over 55. Our roles reversed...Tim used to get the kid's discount and now he's more expensive...we find a table and dig in.

It's OK but I think I should have went to the Asian counter instead of the brisket bar. Tim was fine with the pizza and mac 'n cheese. Letty had a time trying to get the meat out of her crab legs.

Now, we head back to the room to relax and rest up to go exploring tomorrow. We'll see you then.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

PUBLIC TRANSIT OPTIONS FOR THE DISABLED: Riding On The Los Angeles County Metro Rail System - A Little History

As I have discussed many times in other posts here on The World on Wheels, living life with a disability of any kind comes with its own set of various challenges and obstacles that people like me have to face on a daily basis. One of those is figuring out how to get from point A to point B when we want or need to go somewhere.

For many years while I was growing up as a kid in Southern California, there really were not too many public transportation options for people with disabilities to get around on besides a few Metro and Foothill Transit bus routes here and there. The lack of multiple transportation options began to change in our area where we live when the Los Angeles County Metro Gold Line light rail train line was opened and began operation on July 26, 2003 from the Sierra Madre Villa in the eastern part of Pasadena, California.

Since then, there have been two extensions of the Metro Gold Line completed with a third one still to come and possibly a fourth one as well. The first extension of the line was opened on November 15, 2009 and it was called the Eastside Extension. That extension was built starting from Union Station in downtown Los Angeles all the way to the Atlantic Station located on Atlantic Boulevard in East Los Angeles near Monterey Park.

The second extension of the Gold Line was known as the Gold Line Foothill Extension. The first phase of the Gold Line Foothill Extension opened on March 5, 2016 and the second phase of the this extension is scheduled to be opened sometime in the year 2026. The first phase of this extension of the Metro Gold Line was built starting from the Sierra Madre Villa Station in Pasadena and runs all the way to the Azusa Pacific University (APU)/Citrus College Station in the city of Azusa. When the second phase of the Gold Line Foothill Extension does open in 2026, the line will then run even further from the APU/Citrus College Station all the way to the city of Montclair, California at the Montclair Transcenter.

In addition to those extensions of the Metro Gold Line mentioned above, there is also supposed to be a second phase of the Eastside Extension of the line extending it from Atlantic Station in East L.A. to either the city of South El Mente or Whittier or possibly both. Such an extension of that part of the Metro Gold Line is in the under consideration discussion phase at this time and therefore has not yet been fully approved to start being constructed.

Of all the line extensions that have been finished and completed up to this point of the Metro Gold Line, the one that has been the most beneficial to my family and I by far has been the Foothill Extension. That's because my family and I live not too far away from the Duarte/City of Hope and Monrovia stations just east of Pasadena, California.

Besides the Gold Line there are a total of 3 other light rail lines (Blue, Expo and Green) and 2 color coded heavy rail subway lines (Red and Purple). That makes for a grand total of 6 rail lines that are currently in use on the Los Angeles County Metro Rail transportation system.

The Blue Line route runs from the 7th Street/Metro Center station in downtown Los Angeles to the Downtown Long Beach station in the city of Long Beach, California. The Blue Line is also the oldest of all the current rail lines in the Los Angeles area having been in operation since July 14 of 1990.

The Expo Line, which is the newest and most recent one opened in 2012 and goes from the 7th Street/Metro Center station in Los Angeles all the way to the Downtown Santa Monica station in Santa Monica, California.

The route of the Green Line which debuted in August of 1995 currently starts at the Redondo Beach station in the west from Redondo Beach, California and runs all the way to the Norwalk Station in Norwalk, California in the east. There will also be a couple of future extension projects over the next few years in which the Green Line will be connected to the upcoming future Crenshaw/LAX line which is scheduled to be opened sometime in late 2019.

The other possible future extension project for the Green Line is the South Bay extension which, if built, would run from the Redondo Beach station and head southeast to the Torrance Regional Transit Center (RTC) in Torrance, California. This extension project seems to be a ways off from happening since it would not be opening until sometime between the years of 2030 and 2033.

The other current lines on the system are of the heavy rail type that runs entirely underground like a subway train. They are the Red and Purple Lines. The Red Line opened on January 30, 1993 and currently runs from Union Station in the south all the way to the North Hollywood station in the north. While there have been discussions about possible extensions of the line to the North, South, East and the Arts District, it appears that there are no firm plans in place as of right now to extend the Red Line anytime soon.

The Purple Line was also opened on January 30, 1993 and currently goes from Union Station in the east all the way to the Wilshire/Western station in the west. Unlike the Red Line, there is a future extension plan in place to extend the Purple Line from the Wilshire/Western station all the way to the new Westwood/VA Hospital station by the year 2026.

Besides those lines and extensions mentioned above, there will also be a mostly underground Regional Connector light rail line that will connect the current Blue and Expo lines to the current version of the Gold Line and Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. This Regional Connector line is supposed to be opening by sometime in December of 2021.

Finally the only other transit project here in the Los Angeles area that is currently in the under construction phase is the Airport Metro Connector automated people mover train which will connect the LAX airport terminals and a new rental car facility to the Los Angeles County Metro Rail system via the Green Line and the new Crenshaw/LAX line at the new Aviation/96th Street station which is currently under construction. This station is expected to be opened by sometime in the year 2021.

While it is true that my family and I have had the opportunity to ride on all of the lines that are currently in operation for the Los Angeles County Metro Rail system at various times over the last few years, the one that we have been on the most by far as I mentioned up above earlier is the Gold Line since the route runs very close to our house in the foothills of the San Gabriel Valley.

In my next post, we'll go over how we use it. Until then...

Tim Musick
Copyright 2018
All Rights Reserved

Monday, August 6, 2018

Panning For Gold to Pay For Our Car in the Motherlode

A few months ago, I retired from my day job at the U.S. Department of Justice. A couple of weeks ago, my former boss sent me three tickets for the Placerville Brewfest as a retirement present. Placerville is a small Gold Rush era city about 40 miles due east of Sacramento, California.

I hopped online and got the cheapest room I could find. We just need somewhere to lay our heads while we're here, nothing fancy. We'll be heading a little deeper into the Motherlode after this quick weekend in Placerville.

So we loaded up the van and headed up north. Because we were going to be drinking and because our motel was two miles from the fest, I brought Tim's folding travel chair with us. That way, we could get a taxi from our motel to the festival, indulge all we'd like, and then take the taxi back later. No parking hassles, either.

With stops, it took about 7 hours. We check into the Motherlode Motel which turned out to be a dated, retro hotel but was clean, quiet, and run by a very friendly and accommodating Indian family. The wife even deployed a homemade wooden ramp for us to get over the lip into our room (it wasn't an accessible room, just needed the two queen beds, room for the wheelchair, and to be able to get to the toilet for this trip).

My wife tells me "there's some oil or something on the back door of the van." I go and look and, sure enough, there's a oily sheen there.  I look around but can find nothing. The van was running perfectly on the way up so I chalk it up to some other vehicle leaking something near us as we were on the freeway.

After unpacking, I go to get some take out for dinner.  I notice several oil spots on the ground near our rear passenger side tire.  I look underneath and see that there's a leak near the brake on that side.  I'm thinking good news it's not the differential...that'd be more expensive than brakes.

I check the brake fluid reservoir. It's full.  Maybe it's a very slow leak.

"I've found the source of the oil," I tell my wife about my theory about the brake fluid leak.

We discuss what to do and decide to show up first thing in the morning at the local Les Schwab Tire and Brake shop down the street to have them check it out because it's the only local place we could find that would be open on Saturday.

It's an early morning but we make it right at 8 in the morning only to find there are already 10 people ahead of us. I check the van in. I tell the guy, "wow...I guess I wasn't the only one to try to get here right when you open the door."

"We open at 7:30," he tells me.

"That's not what your web page says. It says 8:00."

"Yeah...we need to fix that."

Van in the shop, we head to the Golden Waffle restaurant next door to eat then take a walk to downtown Placerville to kill the time.

While Letty is in a yarn shop, Tim and I are in the dive bar next door waiting for her. I get a phone call. It's Chris from Les Schwab.

"I checked your van, it's not the breaks. That was axle grease and oil that was leaking. The entire real axle is shot and we need to replace it."

This isn't good. After some back and forth where it was really recommended that I not try to drive it anywhere. If I didn't want them to fix it, they said it needed to be towed. The closest Ford dealer is 30 miles away in Folsom and home is over 350 miles away.

"Can you fix it today?" I ask.

"We can't even get the part until at least Tuesday," he tells me.

"How about the cost?"

"About $2400."

Oh no...this free beer festival go very expensive, very fast. 

Well, you have to do what you have to do sometimes. I call Enterprise to rent a car. After some false starts, I find that the closest office is also in Folsom. I can't find a Lyft or Uber to take me, so I bite the bullet and call Hangtown Taxi where a very nice and competent driver named Simeon dropped Letty and Tim off at the motel and then drove me down to Folsom to pick up the car.

That was another hundred bucks, not including the cost to rent the car.

So, our plan is to go to the festival later today, spend the night, drive home, and come back up next week to get the van and continue the trip. Les Schwab is understanding and will hold my car for me at no extra charge until we can get back.

This is just starting but let's hope the worst of it is behind us.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved.